Press "Enter" to skip to content

Storm washes 30-foot dead whale ashore in Huntington Beach

The carcass of a gray whale was found in the Bolsa Chica tidal inlet on Thursday, Feb. 8, with authorities on site to investigate the death of the marine mammal.

Huntington Beach resident Eric Meyer was riding his bike near Seapoint Avenue in Huntington Beach when he spotted what looked like foam from the waves, he said, but as he got closer it was a 30-foot, decomposing gray whale.

Gray whales are on their annual migration, which spans from Alaska to Mexico and passes Southern California along the way – it’s the longest migration of any mammal on Earth.

“It’s kind of sad. I just went out on a whale trip and saw a gray whale,” he said. ‘It’s pretty sad to see a big creature dead.”



It is likely the whale found in Huntington Beach was washed ashore by the recent storms, said Justin Viezbicke, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s California marine mammal stranding response coordinator.

“With all the recent fronts we’ve had blow through, this is typically what happens,” he said. “Those things that are floating around, they do get pushed ashore.”

Wounds on the animal could have been from sharks after the whale died, but “with a carcass floating around the ocean, that’s not surprising to see at all.”

Researchers with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center were taking samples for a necropsy Thursday, while lifeguards were assessing whether to tow the whale out to sea, bury it or have it taken to a landfill, Viezbicke said.

There’s been either two or three dead whales in recent weeks off Southern California, according to Viezbicke. It’s unknown if this one that washed up is the same as one recently found and towed out to sea in San Diego.

“My initial feeling is it is a new one, but we have to double and triple check to make sure we’re not mistaking the counting,” he said. “We want to make sure we have accurate counts and numbers. Sometimes, it’s hard to match the whales after weeks floating at sea and bad degradation.”

Another small calf washed ashore dead recently in Humboldt County.

Getting the number of whales that have died correct is important because there’s still an “Unusual Mortality Event” declared following years of high numbers of dead gray whales washing ashore, prompting concern about the species.

The gray whale population is only about half of what it was seven years ago – it dropped from an estimated 27,000 in 2016 to 14,500 in 2023.

While gray whales are not washing up in the hundreds as they were several years go, the number of gray whales counted passing Southern California so far this year has been concerning.

It’s been the lowest southbound count in 40 years for the Gray Whale Census & Behavior Project off Point Vicente in Palos Verdes, said co-founder Alisa Schulman-Janiger.

As of Jan. 31, volunteers had counted 176 southbound gray whales, including 22 newborn calves, and 19 northbound gray whales, including one calf.

At the same time last season, the count was 197 southbound gray whales, with 29 newborn calves, and eight northbound gray whales.

In previous seasons, by this time the count had recorded 210 to more than 1,200 southbound grays.

There are potential reasons for a low count, other than the species struggling, Schulman-Janiger said, noting southbound grays could be traveling further offshore and out of sight of the volunteers who track their numbers.

The 2019-23 Unusual Mortality Event is under review, she said, and may be declared over soon depending on southbound counts this season, calf assessments, body conditions, and the number of stranded grays.

Source: Orange County Register

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *